Did you get sick of all those stinging political mailers leading up to the June primary?
Oh, you wait.
How about the blistering TV spots?
Oh, you wait.
The primary may be over, but now the push for all the marbles — November’s general election — is coming up.
For political consultants, it’s Christmas — times a zillion. They are the forces behind the pearly-toothed candidates and their messaging. They prowl, dig, promote, strategize, spin, target, attack …
And that’s before lunch …
“It takes a feel for the jugular,” said Larry Remer, a longtime San Diego political consultant. “It’s a contact sport. You can’t shirk from that.”
However, one can’t just be an attack dog, he, um, advised. A consultant has to know when not to go negative, as well. It’s a balancing act. You need to make your candidate look great; the other candidate, well, not so great.
Remer said anyone can call themselves a political consultant. “There’s no secret handshake,” he said. “There’s no graduate degree.”
So who does it best?
We name our top 10.
No.1 Jason Roe
Right. Who else? Along with Duane Dichiara (No. 2 on our list) he runs the political consulting firm Revolvis.
“Roe is one the best that the Republicans have,” Remer said. “He’s a hard-charging zealot.”
Roe is the consultant for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who won re-election in the June primary by getting more than 50 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff. (He got a whopping 57 percent.)
Roe did his job so well that he put himself out of work — at least when it comes to Faulconer’s re-election bid. He’s got more on his plate, though.
Revolvis also also represents Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, who came in second in the June primary and will be trying to unseat Democratic San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts in November.
Roe’s firm has helped get a number of center-right Republican politicians into local office. The clients include San Diego City Council members Scott Sherman, Mark Kersey and Chris Cate.
Roe was also willing and able to take on Chargers Special Council Mark Fabiani whenever Fabiani trashed Faulconer’s stadium plans.
Roe’s only blemish of late came in his role as political adviser to Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. The Florida senator under-performed and was criticized roundly for attacking Donald Trump in a Trump-like effort that came across as juvenile and unprofessional.
“You get to a point where you’ve got to fight fire with fire,” Roe told the Boston Herald during the campaign.
It didn’t work.
No. 2 Duane Dichiara
The other half of Revolvis. While he’s based in Sacramento, his influence in San Diego politics has been substantial. He helps in Revolvis’ efforts to put Republican candidates into local office.
Indeed, he’s been vocal on the Republican need to win over voters in the nation’s big cities, which, aside from San Diego, have become led by Democratic mayors.
“I’d wager that most GOP officeholders rarely enter physically into the major cities unless they are forced to in order to attend a ball game or eat at a non-chain restaurant,” Dichiara wrote on the political website FlashReport.
He argued that Republicans need to reframe their argument about the evils of big government.
“The concept of shrinking or eliminating this infrastructure is frankly not an option to an urban dweller who depends on these services … services which have already been slashed in most cities,” he wrote. “The GOP should consider changing our rhetoric on this issue.”
Faulconer, for one, has listened. He’s always quick to tout his spending efforts to improve neighborhoods, particularly the disadvantaged ones.
Name other Republicans who do that. Right. Hard to do.
No. 3 Tom Shepard
He’s been called “The Kingmaker.” He’s also been called the “Darth Vader of local politics” because of his tough — yet highly successful — tactics. (Who wants to be called the Yoda of local politics?)
Shepard helped four San Diego mayors get elected: Roger Hedgecock, Susan Golding, Jerry Sanders and Bob Filner.
He was also the consultant hired to push for the Convention Center expansion (the first one) and the building of Petco Park.
He’s had a celebrated career, complete with a number of ups and downs – the ups being quite up and the downs being quite down.
For instance, he got caught up in a quagmire during Hedgecock’s term over alleged illegal campaign contributions. Shepard initially faced 14 felony counts, which were reduced to a misdemeanor. He pled guilty and paid a $1,000 fine.
However, his career went into a tailspin as candidates dropped him.
During the years, he regained his reputation by working on a number of campaigns and teaming with Remer for a while.
“He’s an incredible, competent and capable political consultant,” Remer said. “I have the utmost respect for Tom.”
One of Shepard’s more successful efforts was getting Sanders into office. At the time, Sanders, a former San Diego police chief, had no political experience.
He was running against City Council member Donna Frye, who earlier had nearly beat former Mayor Dick Murphy as a write-in candidate.
Sanders, running a centrist campaign, got 53 percent of the vote.
Later, Shepard caught heat from the Republican establishment for representing Bob Filner, a progressive Democrat, in the 2012 mayoral runoff. Normally, his clients are center-right Republicans, such as Sanders.
After taking on Filner as a client for the runoff, Shepard was dumped by Assembly candidate Sherry Hodges and County Supervisor candidate Steve Danon. Both went on to lose their bids in the runoff.
In this most recent election cycle, Shepard represented Chris Ward, who won big in the primary and avoided a runoff against longtime Todd Gloria staffer Anthony Bernal in District 3. He also represented Barbara Bry, the Democratic candidate in District 1 who surprised everyone by nearly taking all the marbles in June against Ellis and two other candidates. Ellis has since dropped out of the race, pretty much ensuring a Bry in November.
No. 4 Larry Remer
Remer started as an investigative newspaper reporter and soon found that his experience would be an asset in his work as a political consultant.
And, no, it wasn’t the ability to write on deadline that helped.
It was having the will, passion, smarts and stubbornness to dig deep and hard for information, he said.
“And like any occupation, you need to have an aptitude for it,” he added.
He most certainly did.
In the course of his career, he has worked on dozens of campaigns, representing candidates and pushing initiatives.
He’s worked for Toni Atkins, Juan Vargas and Ron Roberts, to name but a few. He’s also helped a number of big school-bond efforts succeed.
He leans center-left politically, so he’s been drawn to those causes and politicians. Some political consultants can work both sides of the aisle, but Remer finds that difficult, he said. Right now, he’s working to protect the minimum-wage hike.
His consulting business, The Primacy Group, thrived so much he was forced to cut back because he found himself spending too much time doing administrative work.
“What I really enjoy is getting into the middle of the campaign,” he said.
A political consultant’s most important decision is which candidate or cause to work for, he noted. Because then, you’re in.
“You advocate as zealously as you can,” he said.
Take Remer’s work with Lori Saldaña and her race against Scott Peters for the 52nd District congressional seat in 2012. Though she was outspent 4-to-1, Saldana just missed the runoff, getting 23.2 percent of the vote to Peters’ 23.7 percent.
No. 5 Dan Rottenstreich
Rottenstreich is on a roll. He was the consultant for Mara Elliott, who surprised insiders by taking the second slot in the runoff for San Diego City Attorney, despite far-better-funded and well-connected opponents, Rafael Castellanos and Gil Cabrera.
That's become one of the biggest races to watch this November. Besides the race for mayor, it's the only citywide race in San Diego.
And he represented Georgette Gomez, who will advance to the general election against Ricardo Flores in the District 9 City Council race. This despite the backing and financial support of organized labor for Sarah Saez, who placed third.
That's also considered a key race, considering it's the only contested city council race this November.
Rottenstreich also made the list because, Remer said, if he were to run for office and had to choose one San Diego political consultant, it would be Rottenstreich.
“That is, if I were crazy enough to run for office,” Remer said.
No. 6 Jennifer Tierney
If you want Tierney, you have to call long distance. She lives in Virginia. (Thank goodness for email.) However, despite being 2,500 miles away, she does considerable work in San Diego politics.
One of her better efforts came in 2008 when she helped get both Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner elected to the City Council. It was a first-time run for both.
Now, they are both terming out. Gloria ran successfully for the Assembly in June, while Lightner appears prepared to retire from public office.
Tierney also was the consultant for Mayor Dick Murphy when he ran successfully for re-election in 2004.
Way back then, Tom Blair, former editor of San Diego Magazine, noted how she was referred to as “The It Girl.”
Tierney also consulted for San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis when Dumanis ran for mayor in 2012. That one didn’t work out so well. Dumanis finished fourth in a crowded field, and Bob Filner was the final winner.
No. 7 John Hoy
He’s another longtime political consultant with some impressive victories. In 2010, he steered Republican Lorie Zapf to a City Council victory in District 6, which had been represented by liberal firebrand Frye. A Republican had not won the district since 1987.
Hoy was also a key figure in the recall effort to oust Filner as sexual harassment allegations loomed against him. That effort proved to be unnecessary after Filner resigned.
“He’s very good,” Democratic strategist Christopher Crotty said of Hoy in an interview with City Beat. “There’s only a few conservative contractors in town that are really effective, and he’s one of them. He’s seasoned, and he’s devious as hell, which can be a good thing in a political campaign.”
No 8 Bill Wachob
Wachob worked for Filner in his City Council and congressional campaigns for decades, yet he seems to have come out of the experience without much collateral damage.
Wachob left Filner right before he was elected mayor in a bruising runoff and before the allegations surfaced.
However, Wachob offered some sage advice to consultants who find themselves parting ways with a politician in crisis.
“In terms of damage control, you have to be a little careful because the one thing clients or candidates don’t want is consultants who are only interested in themselves, in their own reputation,” Wachob told the website Campaigns & Elections. “If I were the candidate, I would want to see if the person leaving is using it or exploiting it.”
The article continued: “Deciding if an incident — or in Filner’s case, a pattern of compromising behavior — is worth quitting over is like identifying art, according to Wachob, who served in the Pennsylvania state Assembly and ran for Congress.”
“You know it when you see it,” he said.
No. 9 Laura Fink
Fink got her feet wet as a strategist for Filner. She paid a price for it. She was one of the women who came forward, alleging that Filner harassed her.
When she came forward, she told KPBS that she didn’t go public initially because she was trying to build her consulting business. According to KPBS, she said she “was trying to build a career in the political field … and Bob Filner has a reputation for swift retribution and for holding grudges.”
Free of that, she has indeed moved forward. She’s currently working on Toni Atkins’ campaign for a state Senate seat. “An up-and-comer,” is how Remer described her.
No. 10 Christopher Crotty
There’s a reason City Beat turned to Crotty for an opinion about Hoy. He’s a vet too. He’s consulted on national, state and local campaigns. His work in local politics goes back to when Maureen O’Connor successfully ran for mayor in 1986, becoming the first woman to hold the post. He served as an issues researcher in her campaign.
Over the years, media outlets have reached out to him often because of his expertise.
For instance, he warned about the financial resources it would take to promote the Balboa Park centennial celebration, telling Uptown News: “If you’re talking about a national media campaign, that’s going to cost between $20 million and $40 million, and then you need to raise money for the actual event, which is another $12 million on top of that.”
He turned out to be spot on; the celebration fizzled.